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Source: Chestnut Hill Local
Date: April 21, 2005
Byline: Mike Benigno

Township, preservation groups seek increased cooperation in Black Horse effort

Facing mounting pressure from the two volunteer groups making strides to restore the historic Black Horse Inn, the Springfield Township Board of Commissioners agreed to hold a meeting to formally discuss fundraising procedures that would ensure the continued progress of the restoration project.

A workshop meeting of the Board of Commissioners on April 11 was attended by members of the Friends of Historic Bethlehem Pike, the Springfield Township Historical Society and other individuals who have worked to save the inn from possible demolition.

At the meeting, Don Mitchell, of the Friends group, presented the Board of Commissioners with a letter imploring them to answer a number of questions relating to the current progress of the Black Horse project. The letter questioned the current level of commitment the commissioners have made throughout the past several months, making for a charged meeting with much audience interaction.

Each of the nine questions on the sheet was addressed by board president Glenn Schaum. Issues clarifying the bond between the Board of Commissioners and the two volunteer groups were discussed in depth.

In an interview, Don Mitchell of the Friends group said that following the meeting, a separate planning meeting was set up for the following week, bringing together Springfield township manager Don Berger with Ed Zwicker, president of the Historical Society, and James Mascaro, vice-chair of the Black Horse Inn Advisory Committee — a group still recovering from the recent removal of its former head, Scott Kreilick.

Mitchell said he would also attend the meeting to help solidify Springfield Township's official fundraising position in relation to the Black Horse restoration project.

The meeting took place April 14, Zwicker told the Local on Monday.

"The idea was to come up with an operating agreement to work together, and we came up with a framework for that," Zwicker said. While specifics of the agreement are yet to be worked out, Zwicker said that a system of "checks and balances" has been agreed on, whereby each group plays a distinct role: the township as owner of the property; the Friends of Historic Bethlehem Pike as the lead organization for fundraising; the nonprofit historical society as receiver and disburser of funds; and the Black Horse Inn Advisory Committee as being in charge of oversight and quality assurance.

"We are all are on the same page, we're all shooting for the same goal, which is to restore and preserve the Black Horse without tapping the taxpayers for the whole bill," Zwicker said.

At the April 11 workshop meeting, Mitchell said he hoped the township would be able to provide monies that would match the funds raised by both volunteer groups.

Mitchell said a matching option would allow the volunteer groups to continue showing the amount of public interest in saving the inn.

"We're raising money and we want to have the township match that money," he said. "We want to prove we can raise [the funds]."

He said if the township approves a leading proposition, the township would match funds as donations and contributions reach certain markers — for example, increments of $15,000, Mitchell said.

Springfield Township commissioner Kathleen Lunn continued her public support for the Black Horse project during the meeting, helping the group of commissioners answer questions that required specific knowledge of the detailed stipulation agreement signed when the tract of land on which the Black Horse Inn stands was sold in May 2003.

When asked about the meeting, Lunn said she understood the strong concerns of the volunteer groups, but was pleased with the outcome of the discussions.

"I think it's reached a critical point for the fundraising for the building," Lunn said. "It's a critical juncture and they've been trying for so long without a commitment [from Springfield Township] and they've reached a point where they want some decisions to be made."

"From a Friends perspective, I think the commissioners responded respectfully," Mitchell said of the April 11 meeting. "I think they did make concerted efforts to answer the questions, and we were really happy to see that."

Editor James Sturdivant contributed to this article.